Office-to-residential conversions collapse in London

Helen Cahill
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New regulations in 2013 allowed automatic office conversions (Source: Getty)

Planning approvals for office-to-residential conversions in London have fallen by over a third, sparking concerns that supply has dwindled.

In 2013 regulations were introduced (so-called permitted development rights) which allowed developers to convert offices into homes without securing planning permission.

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Last year, developers exercising these rights built close to 14,000 homes in England, which represented three quarters of the housing supply growth in that year.

However, only 2,922 office-to-residential conversions were approved in England in the same year, down by 10 per cent on the number approved between April 2014 and March 2015.

And, in London, the number of approvals collapsed by 37 per cent. Only 603 schemes were given the go-ahead, compared with 951 in the first year of the new regulations.

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With the government aiming to build 200,000 new homes a year, some property experts are worried that the fall in housing supply from converted offices will derail targets.

Charles Mills, head of planning at property consultancy Daniel Watney, said:

More pressure needs to be put on London councils to not misuse the power of veto over certain schemes. Many rejections are legitimate, but the government should not be afraid to take action against councils if there is evidence they are using these powers to prevent development by the backdoor.

Many councils have vetoed developments using Article 4 directions, which block the automatic planning approval of office-to-residential conversions. Last month, housing minister Gavin Barwell said councils meeting housing targets without allowing conversions would be permitted to block future conversions.

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